President-elect Obama hasn’t been to church in three weeks, saying he doesn’t want to disrupt the service for others. Reagan and Bush said the same thing, but Carter and Clinton attended church regularly. What’s your advice? Where should presidents worship?
1…..As a United Church of Christ clergyman, I’d love to see the Obama family in one of our many churches in the Washington area. But in a way no previous president has been, Obama will be a president for all the people; and being identified with any one denomination within one religion would be un-ecumenical.
2…..Yes, the Obama family is of one religion, and their being committed to Christian worship is a matter of their own integrity.
3…..Yes, the National Cathedral is of one Christian denomination, the Episcopal Church. But it is unique, in the Washington area and indeed in America, for functioning also as a national center of piety, with occasional rituals of America’s “civil religion.” Further, regular attendance at Sunday morning worship in the National Cathedral would “disrupt the service for others” less than in any other church.
4…..A congregation primarily African-American in membership would be “multiculturally” natural and politically unwise. Obama presents himself as an American, not an African-American (though he affirms his paternal African heritage with appropriate dignity). Membership in a black church would inappropriately underline the “African” in his African-American identity.
5…..Christianity is a corporate religion, existing fundamentally in the gathered “Body of Christ.” Wrongly, Reagan and Bush copped out on it, using the lame excuse of “disrupt[ing] the service for others.” Carter and Clinton were correct, weekly gathering for worship with their fellow-Christians.
6…..What about our president-elect and the other religions in increasingly pluralist America? Obama is an orthodox-open Christian. Orthodox: In his humble but explicit witness, he affirms Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Open: He is both respectful and expectant of other religions, believing that we all can learn to work together for the good of America and humanity.